Sound Patterns in Language
|William Shi-Yuan Wang, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong|
In contrast to other species, humans are unique in having developed thousands of diverse languages which are not mutually intelligible. However, any infant can learn any language with ease, because all languages are based upon common biological infrastructures of sensori-motor, memorial, and cognitive faculties. While languages may differ significantly in the sounds they use, the overall organization is largely the same. It is divided into a discrete segmental system for building words and a continuous prosodic system for expressing, phrasing, attitudes, and emotions. Within this organization, I will discuss a class of languages called 'tone languages', which makes special use of F0 to build words. Although the best known of these is Chinese, tone languages are found in many parts of the world, and operate on different principles. I will also comment on relations between sound patterns in language and sound patterns in music, the two worlds of sound universal to our species.